Archive for June 21st, 2007

HowTo: read voraciously

June 21, 2007

Abi links to a couple of pointers on how to read a lot of books; the tricks include skipping pages and cutting bait on losers. Prior to my training in research, I had read only text books and novels; so I never skipped (and, didn’t know that you can).

The first inkling about skipping sections in a text book came from Prof. Jagadish. However, I had to wait till my graduate student days to learn how to effectively skip; for example, how to read the abstract, conclusions, and introduction of a paper (in that order, and, occasionally skim through the references) to decide whether you want to read the complete paper or not, and how to start reading a section from somewhere in the middle of Khachaturyan or Mura to move back and forth so that you can read sizable chunks in a short time, and so on. Along the way, thanks to one of the groups seminars (called \Sigma \tau), I also learnt how to talk intelligently about papers that I have not read from start to finish.

In this regard, I should also mention a friend of mine who used a sort of binary algorithm to read novels; you read the first page, then you read the nth page; if things don’t make sense, you read the [(n+1)/2]th page and so on. No wonder he finished Lord of the Rings in two days!

Prolific writing — scientific and literary!

June 21, 2007

Debra Hamel writes about a powerful, and prolific writer, Stephen Dixon:

You may never have heard of him, but Dixon is an incredibly prolific author. He’s written 27 books and published over 500 short stories. The writing started in a burst of creativity over a manual typewriter in 1958 or 1959: he sat down and typed out the first draft of a short story, then sat down the next night and typed out another story, and the next night another, and he did that for twenty nights straight.

Along similar lines, Doug recently mused about some theorists who write at the rate of a paper per 2.5 weeks (and, the comments are fun to read too).

Personally, I know of a professor, on whose homepage, for every reload, the number of published papers changed/changes, making me wonder whether it was the number of papers or page views (Well, I am exaggerating, but it almost did/does 🙂